ELK COUNTY — It's almost impossible to find a cell phone signal in the heart of Pennsylvania's elk country, and I'm quite certain the elk prefer it that way. I get the feeling the people who live here like it, too.
This fall, as the elk begin ratcheting up activity during peak rutting season, the Pennsylvania Game Commission is commemorating its 100th anniversary to restore the state's elk population.
Historically, elk were plentiful in the Northeast, but by the late 1800s, Pennsylvania's herds had been decimated. Legions of elk were depleted for nearly 50 years until the game commission reintroduced the species. From 1913 to 1926, 177 elk were released into the wild. Their descendants thrive today because of the relentless conservation of habitat and people's willingness to protect the elk.
Locals seem to warmly tolerate the attention this time of the year brings. Visitors clamor, mostly on the weekends, to catch a glimpse of a large bull bugling as he saunters through a luminous field of goldenrod. Each echoing trumpet is a signal to females that seek the loudest, most persistent males. Witnessing the elk strive to perpetuate their species reveals the complex and enduring connection the elk have with this land.
So if you find yourself visiting Elk County, follow some simple advice: Don't worry about your cell phone, keep a safe distance and appreciate an unforgettable look into the wilds of Pennsylvania that stretches back hundreds of years.
Sean Stipp is a photographer for Trib Total Media.
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